Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller has asked the British Columbia government to reconsider its decision not to prosecute violations of Canada’s prostitution laws.
B.C. is one of several provinces that have decided not to prosecute some or all prostitution offences after the Supreme Court of Canada struck down as unconstitutional three prostitution-related offences last Dec. 20, despite the Court’s suspending the decision for one year to give Canada an opportunity to craft new laws. B.C. has joined Ontario, Alberta, New Brunswick and Newfoundland in either selective or non-enforcement of the present laws.
“We cannot ignore the fact that women, men and children are being objectified,” said Miller. “It is a shameful state of affairs and it’s going on under our very eyes. Any decision not to enforce laws that protect these victims is indefensible.”
The archbishop announced Feb. 17 the Vancouver archdiocese is putting together a “team of stakeholders” to examine the best legal framework to respond to prostitution and human trafficking.
“Prostitution and human trafficking is the most extensive form of slavery in this 21st century and it’s occurring in our own country and in our own city,” Miller said, adding Canada is a “source, transit and destination country for women, men and children, many of them aboriginal, trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation or forced labour.”
Also on Feb. 17, the Justice Department launched an online consultation on the prostitution laws, prompting the Catholic Civil Rights League to ask its members across Canada to respond. The consultation includes an online survey that asks Canadians questions concerning whether they think the sale or purchase of sex should be illegal.
“I’m trying to encourage as wide participation as possible,” said League executive director Joanne McGarry.